State of the NHL Economy
Over the past several weeks we have had several tidbits of information come out giving indication to the general state of the NHL economy.
The NHL projects a 2 percent increase in league revenue for the 2008-09 season despite facing one of the worst economic crises to hit North America since the league contracted from 10 to six franchises around the time of the Great Depression
According to The Globe and Mail, the Coyotes are receiving financial assistance from the National Hockey League to keep the team afloat. The report indicates the team is receiving advances on their share of league revenue.
Last night between games on HNIC, NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly was interviewed by Ron MacLean (link to HD video of the entire interview). The first thing they discussed was the rumor that escrow payments made by the players would be rising from 13% of their pay to 17-20%. Kelly wouldn’t say exactly how much the payment would rise, but he did answer in the affirmative that the 17-20% range was accurate.
According to the Tennessean, Predators officials have discussed the option of buying up unsold tickets to ensure they collect the maximum revenue-sharing from the league. Earlier this month, an ESPN.com report indicated the Coyotes forfeited 25% of their full share for failing to meet specific targets.
So, what can we conclude from all of this. First off, not everything is all rosey in all NHL locations despite what Gary Bettman would want you to believe. Clearly the Coyotes and Predators continue to struggle financially and I am sure Tampa, Florida, Atlanta, the Islanders and a few others are not that much better off.
Second, the players are going to have to give back a huge chunk of money because their salaries will far exceed the percentage of revenue they are allotted. This, I believe, will be a first for the players under the new CBA and it will be interesting to see how the players react to not getting as much money as they contracts stipulate. We can be pretty certain that the players will decide not to opt out of the current CBA (a smart thing to do in tough economic times) but when it expires for real in a couple of years when hopefully the economy has turned around and they might be in a better bargaining position, lets see how much of an issue this becomes.
Finally, the 2% revenue increase should give us some insight into what next years salary cap could be. When the salary cap gets set it is based on the previous years revenue and then the players can opt to boost it by up to 5% pending revenue growth projections. The players have always opted to do this including for this season. But, revenue growth has not grown by 5% and thus the cap is essentially higher, by about 3%, that it should be based on this years revenues and this will be reflected in next years salary cap numbers.
A few months ago <a href=”http://www.hockeyanalysis.com/?p=804″I discussed a variety of scenarios of revenue growth and the falling Canadian dollar and the impact they will have on the salary cap next season. I can now refine that projection using the 2% revenue growth number.
2007-08 Revenue: $2.62 billion
2008-09 Revenue: $2.67 billion (estimated based on 2% growth)
With revenue of $2.67 billion next years salary cap will be approximately $55.8 million with the players having the option to increase it to $58.2 million. So far the players have always opted to increase the salary cap the maximum amount they are allowed to but with projections being next years revenue will drop, not increase, it is quite likely they will not opt to implement the salary cap increase.
The NHL probably has fairly good projections for the remainder of this years regular season as many teams have sold a significant portion of their tickets and advertising revenues are all pretty much booked and accounted for. Playoff revenue is a different story as not a single playoff ticket has been sold yet and if the economy is still in the dumpers as many people expect, will NHL teams be able to jack up playoff ticket prices as much this year as they have in the past? If they can’t, that 2% revenue growth could be an optimistic number. Only time will tell but everything seems to be pointing to a drop in the salary cap of $1-2 million next season and quite possibly stagnant or dropping further the following season.